The Creature Columns: The Aesthetic Appeal of Movie Posters (Part 1) by Tom "Creature" Jeffers


Art is completely subjective. The appreciation of cinema is completely objective. I wanted to get that out of the way before I proceed with what is a deep passion of mine. Movie posters are like book covers. They can draw or repulse. They can even draw a person in because they repulse. Bad movies can have spectacular posters. Excellent films can have terrible posters. This is the first article that I have in a planned series that discusses this notion from a purely artistic standpoint. A review of a movie poster in no way reflects a film. It is a total and separate entity. What I am also offering here is my own opinion based on hours of research and art appreciation. I am in no way a complete expert. Therefore, if my opinion is different from yours, dear reader, please do not take offense. My intention is not to be negative in any way. I am simply offering my observations and opinions. Thank you for your understanding!

A movie poster can make a film or break it. That may indeed be a bold statement, but I know it to be true for myself and many over film buffs. The first impression we often get from a film is a released poster. Movie trailers can change our minds about a film, but that first impression tends to stick with us. With that understanding, it is easy to see why posters are such an integral part of a film release. I want to discuss a few posters to illustrate my meaning. My intention in this first article is to focus on poster versions that work better than others.

The first set of posters that I want to showcase is from the film Spider-Man: Homecoming. This was an excellent popcorn movie that provided a lot of pleasure to its audiences. Tom Holland is simply endearing in his role as Peter Parker. Frankly, that is the main issue with the two different posters.

If one looks at two different posters for the film we can observe a few things. The first poster has all the epic elements of the film, but it does not do anything special. It is a “floating head” poster. It has information that we know we want, so it works in that capacity. The layout is tremendously crowded and not appealing. This is not something I would want to hang on my man-cave wall. It uses a typical color pallet that moves from blues to oranges. This is the same poster we see all the time in marquis across the nation. However, when we look at the alternate version of the poster we see something completely different.

In the second version of the poster, we get something spectacular. We have a much more intimate look at our hero. It isn’t overcrowded with action. This poster LOOKS like a homecoming. It makes use of cool colors and an absolutely beautiful diagonal skyline. We can see the Avengers building in the background. That is enough to clue us into things. This is a quieter poster and extremely effective. We can see everything in Spider-Man’s pose. He is a teenager listening to music in a beautiful city that he loves. It has a hopeful tone, and it just screams: “Watch this film!” I would hang this poster just about anywhere.

The next set of posters is for a fantastic classic. It has stood the test of time for decades and is much loved throughout the world. Jaws is just one of those films that stays fresh and exciting. It is always a great watch, and I still maintain that the opening sequence is one of the most terrifying in cinema history. However, there is a poster that few ever mention that lacks the same sense of the sinister.

This Turkish poster showcases a great monster and a woman in imminent peril. However, in my opinion, it lacks the subtle terror of the American poster. It shows a victim that is completely aware of her danger. It leaves nothing to the imagination or the created terrors of the mind. She even seems less vulnerable, and the poster comes off in an almost “cartoony” fashion.

The two posters showcase the same color pallet and even the same iconic shark pose. However, there is just something about the American version. Instead of being in the jaws of the monster, we see our hapless victim swimming moments before the terrifying attack. The young lady in the American version is naked as she is in the film. This only serves to create the same sense of ultimate vulnerability. Both posters are well done, but the American version takes the tension up a notch. The anticipation of the attack is far worse than the attack itself. The reason for this is that the imagination is a far scarier place than the obvious. The American poster creates that ominous sense of terror by placing the observer in the position of having more knowledge than the hapless victim.

The final set of posters I want to showcase center on a property that I have loved almost all of my life. It also showcases just how far we have come in the design of such things. Neither poster is particularly memorable, but one certainly dominates the other. The movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, is generally remembered with fondness. It is a fun tale with the original crew.

The first version of this poster is a garish nightmare. This was mostly used in the foreign market, but I cannot imagine why. It is a stylized piece of art that does have some merits, but the overall composition and the throwback rainbow just does not work for many people. As a result, one can find this poster on many “worst posters in the history of cinema” lists. The characters are represented well, but they look a bit static and almost like a stylized comic book.

The second version of the poster also employs stylized art but does so beautifully. Even my aversion to “floating head” posters, is overcome with this piece. The limited color pallet is so rich and warm that it makes me want to know more about this movie. I also love the way that the artist used the Klingon Bird of Prey in such a prominent manner. It moves this ship into the position of almost being a character. If you have seen the film, you know that this ship is truly integral to the entire plot of the movie.

All in all, the appeal of movie posters is a subjective thing. However, some things can certainly add to a film and encourage a viewer to watch it. Often a simple poster can work better. If a poster is going to be busy, it certainly needs to be original. The poster is the single most physical part of a movie that promotes it and entices an audience. The careful selection of elements has increasingly become more and more important. Audiences are no longer enticed by the same old styles. Most are looking for something fresh. With movie poster collecting on the rise, this form of art will become more and more appealing as time goes on.

*Author’s note:
My next article (Part 2) will deal with original movie posters and the inspired posters of their sequels. I hope to see you here then.

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